Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Otium, Los Angeles

I was recently in Los Angeles, downtown Los Angeles, for a business trip.  Not exactly an area I want to hang out, but, luckily (?), my days and nights were incredibly full (I was there for work after all!), so it didn't really matter where I was anyway.

I sadly had only one meal that I got to arrange for myself, the night of my arrival.  My choice was a no brainer - I was going to Otium. 

Otium is the restaurant of Chef Timothy Hollingsworth of French Laundry fame (he was chef de cuisine, worked his way up in the restaurant over 12 years, competed in the Bocuse d’Or, etc, etc).  But Otium is his concept, not anything like The French Laundry.

I might have picked which hotel to stay at partially based on proximity to Otium, so I could easily have dinner there my first night.
Satisfying Meal for One.
The concept at Otium is all about being "social".  You see this in the wide open floor plan, including the kitchen and raw bar integrated into the space, in a way that goes far beyond the standard trendy "open kitchen".  You notice it in the menu, every dish designed as share plates.  You hear it in club/lounge like pumping music.  The entire place has a "we are all in this together" vibe to it.  They succeeded at the theme.

They also succeeded at creating a place that isn't too formal, although the food served is of high caliber, with a matching price point.

The service was excellent.  My main server was friendly and extremely knowledgeable.  She had actually tried every dish on the menu herself, which really helps.  And her excitement over some dishes (and drinks!) was genuine.  My dishes were promptly cleared by another staff member once I stopped eating.  The server who brought out each dish described them in detail.  Great service.

It was a great meal all around, although I dined solo, which was not ideal.  I'd gladly return with a group, as it clearly was meant to be a shared experience.


The restaurant is stunning.  Let's just get that out there.  They clearly worked with an interior designer, and clearly went big budget.

And it worked.  The environment captures everything I think they were going for: elegant yet comfortable.  Just like the cuisine.
Back Garden.
This was the back entrance, but it is where I accidentally entered.

Not a problem really, it meant that I got to see the outdoor seating, surrounded by landscaping, with ample heat lights for the "chilly" Los Angeles evenings.

The outdoor garden vibe continues through the interior as well.
Side Bar.
Continuing my journey of entering backwards, I walked through the side bar area, with counter seating along the bar, and several small tables.  This area is all reserved for walk-ins.

You can see some of the stunning interior design, with shades of black and gray hexagon tiled flooring, a back wall with a hidden phrase that invokes the garden feel, and gorgeous cabinetry housing the liquor.
Raw Bar, Coffee Prep.
The bar continues around the corner, with additional stool seating.  This area however is the raw bar, with seafood on display on ice, and the coffee station.

If you were seated in this area, you could easily watch all the cold app prep action (or the coffee making I suppose, but that is far less exciting!).

More fascinating decor elements like the yellow tiled backdrop, and light figures made from pipes.
Open Kitchen.
And finally, the large open kitchen.  On one side is the wood fired oven, in the back, many prep stations.  I love an open kitchen, and, particularly as a solo diner, this was a great opportunity to just watch some of the action.  Right near the man in the middle is an ice cream machine, but I never saw it go into action while I was there.
Place Setting.
The place settings were very appealing as well, with what looked like custom ceramics, little candles, fresh flowers in a little vase, on lovely wooden tables.

Food & Drink

Otium is open for lunch and dinner during the week (closed Monday), but also open for brunch on weekends.  I wish I could have visited for brunch, as the menu sounded fantastic, but alas, my visit was on a Sunday evening, for dinner.

Still, there were plenty of menu items I was excited about.  It wasn't just the chef's background that drew me in initially.  It was the menu.  Well, in particular, it was two menu items.

On a menu full of heavy hitters, there were two I just couldn't get past: foie gras funnel cake and uni over tofu sorbet.  Um, seriously?  I adore foie gras and uni (hence the labels on my blog for these items alone), I equally adore funnel cake/fried dough/donuts/etc and frozen desserts.  Although, to be clear, these weren't desserts - these are savory main dishes.  And I knew they wouldn't be gimmicks, coming out of a kitchen of this caliber.

The hard part for me however is that the menu is designed entirely as share plates.  Some are smaller than others, but, everything is meant to be shared.  It is a social restaurant after all.  And I was a solo diner.

I knew this wasn't ideal, and decided I couldn't really take down the foie gras funnel cake all by myself (as much as I was tempted ...), but I still wanted to try the restaurant so badly I ignored this fact and went alone.

It worked out ... ok.  But really, you want to come here with others.  Which I will.  Next time.
Ancho. $16.
"Lola Mezcal, Pineapple, Sal De Gusano, Lime." 

This was an excellent cocktail.  I could tell as it was presented that they take the cocktails seriously; a huge perfect square ice cube in the center and colored salt rim let me know they mean business.

I loved the salt on the rim.  I loved it slightly less once I looked it up afterward ... do you know what Sal de Gusano is?  I thought it was just seasoned salt, but, uh, it is sea salt, and it does have dried peppers, but, this key component?  Dried mezcal worms.  Slightly not appetizing.  Yet I licked every bit off.

The drink itself was a perfectly balanced mix of boozy, sweet, and spicy.  It had moments of sweet from the pineapple, but the ancho chiles always countered it back.

Overall, great, and I was glad to pick it.
Dinner Menu.
The diner menu is arranged into sections that aren't quite self-explanatory.  The top section contained only a single item: their signature bread.  Next was what turned out to be mostly raw seafood items (although the shrimp was poached).  Next up?  Uh, "other" smaller plates, some cooked, some cold, mostly non-seafood.  Next, pasta.  And finally, the much larger main proteins, a mix of seafood, white meat, and red meat.

All dishes are designed to be shared, which certainly made things interesting for me as a solo diner.  I was told that they normally encourage 1-2 dishes per person, so, I should do that, but, beware that some would be far too large (e.g. something like the whole fish, or, sadly, the foie gras funnel cakes).  My server was happy to talk through all the dishes I had questions about though, and volunteer which she thought made sense as a single person.

The menu had many dishes I would have picked if I was sharing with others, but, given the limitations of being alone, I ended up picking things that weren't actually near the top of my list.  In retrospect, maybe I should have just ordered what I wanted, and been ok with not finishing it?  That's just not my style though.

I selected one dish from each of the top two categories (well, not the bread category, because, as glorious as a cast iron skillet full of freshly baked rolls slathered in garlic and butter sounded, uh, I can't imagine me taking down a whole skillet of bread alone!), and skipped the pasta and main entree categories entirely, although I nearly went for the scallops with pork dumplings, mushroom, bok choy, and XO sauce from the mains, as that just sounds like such a Julie dish.
Ora King Salmon. $18.
"Yuzu Creme, Meyer Lemon, Pluot."

The raw seafood section was pointed out to me to be a good place to base my selections, as it contains the smaller, lighter dishes.  The only problem?  Well, I just havne't been into raw seafood lately.  I'm not sure why.  This is the section that *used* to have the uni with tofu sorbet dish, but alas, now had uni chawanmushi (which, when I asked about, my server confirmed that it was very egg forward, much like quiche, and, well, I'm just not an egg girl).

One seafood I still enjoy raw is salmon, and, particularly after my visit to Tokyo with incredible salmon, I was interested enough in this dish to order it.

It came with yuzu creme fraiche at the base of the plate, with 5 slices of salmon rolled up, drizzled with meyer lemon vinaigrette, and garnished with cubes of pluot and micro greens (including micro celery!)

The salmon was fine.  Fresh enough, well trimmed, but, it wasn't nearly as intensely flavorful as that which I had in Tokyo, and was a bit of a letdown.

The yuzu creme fraiche was creamy and tangy, a really creative way to give the standard salmon + cream cheese + lemon pairing a serious upgrade.  I really liked the flavor to the creme fraiche.

The meyer lemon vinaigrette was tangy as well, but also sweeter.  I enjoyed the flavor.  The dish overall had a good salt level, and I think it came from this element.

The little cubes of pluot added freshness and lightness, as did the garnish of what I think was micro celery.

Overall, while the salmon itself might have bored me, I did like the other components on the plate, and scooped up every last drop of creme fraiche, vinaigrette, and fruit.  It *almost* felt like I was getting my dessert first!  Fruit and cream?  Yes!
Octopus. $19.
"Tzatziki, Cucumber, Red Onion, Arugula."

My next dish came from the smaller plates section, a standard dish on the Otium menu, one my server said was one of her favorites.

I love octopus, but I almost didn't order this because I'm not fond of yogurt and cucumber, so the Greek treatment wasn't very appealing.  But after her rave endorsement, I decided to risk it.

I think I'm glad I did, although, it was a mixed success.

The dish came with tzatziki at the base, then a layer of thinly sliced cucumber (like zucchini noodles, but, uh, made from cucumber), pickled red onion, and then the octopus.  The menu said arugula, but, I didn't see any, and the server who brought it out didn't mention it either.

I ended up loving the tzatziki.  It was very garlicy, such a great flavor, and good thick consistency.  I did not like the cucumber noodles on top of it though, as expected as I'm not a fan of raw cucumber, and it was a bit hard to avoid them and get all the tzatziki.  The tzatziki was also a bit of an odd pairing for the octopus, at least, I wanted more of a lighter, sweeter sauce.  But that all said, I really liked the tzatziki.

The red onions were pickled, intensely vinegary, and added great acidity.  They were also crisp, and I liked the crunch they added.

So, the tzatziki and pickled red onions, both very Greek, actually were elements I liked.

Now for the octopus.  It is where the dish was really a mixed success.  I'm not quite sure how it was cooked. It almost seemed tempura'ed, or deep fried, except I know it wasn't.  The exterior was intensely crispy, particularly the thinner pieces and particular where the suckers were.  I really liked the crispy suckers, but the thinner pieces just seemed overcooked.  Which actually, was the problem.  About half of it, all the smaller pieces, just seemed overcooked.  They were very dry, and very chewy.  Not chewy like rubbery octopus (the usual problem), but chewy like leather.  But the thicker pieces were meaty, and although crazy crispy on the outside, weren't too dried out or chewy.  I liked those pieces. 

So ... I'm still not sure what I thought of this.  I enjoyed some things, and not others. The prep of the octopus, whatever it was, was certainly unique.  But, some bites were really not enjoyable.

The portion was larger than my first dish, but not overwhelming, so that was a good fit, although I did grow pretty sick of the octopus about halfway through.  Better for sharing I suspect.
Otium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 19, 2018

Drinks & Desserts at Roka Bar

I've reviewed Roka Akor, an upscale Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, several times before, including the high quality and reasonably priced business lunch, a crazy impressive sushi delivery, and a simple takeout lunch.

I'll skip the background, and leave you to read those previous reviews if you care.
Drinks & Desserts.
My visit this time was to Roka Bar, the downstairs lounge that serves light bites and drinks, along with the full restaurant menu.  We visited just for drinks and deserts.

The overall experience was pleasant, and matched what we were looking for, a quiet place to talk, sip cocktails, and eat dessert, but, I didn't particularly like anything I had.  The service was great though, very attentive and polite.


The upstairs restaurant is light filled, with huge windows.  It is a very open space, including an open kitchen.

But we went to Roka Bar for this visit, downstairs, a completely different atmosphere, with zero windows and thus no natural light, very, very dim interior. 
That isn't to say it wasn't a nice space.  It was beautifully designed, and much larger than I expected.

Lounge furniture makes up the majority of the seating, surrounding low tables.  There are little candles on every table.  Interesting artwork on the walls.  Rich color tones.

I visited with a group of 4, arriving at 7:30pm on a Saturday.  We were able to get a private area with couches and lounge chairs with no problem, and had our choice of several different seating areas.  I'm not sure when/if they get crowded, but it was only half-full the entire time we were there, which was perfect, quiet enough for easy conversation, but it certainly didn't feel awkwardly empty.

The space was really beautiful, but actually not very comfortable for sitting (or eating).  Every other group of patrons was seated at low tables like us, and they all had full meals, so I think they struggled even more than us, as we only had drinks and desserts.
A large bar occupies the center of the room, with a beautiful wooden overhang for dining.  This looks like it would actually be a great place to dine with just one other person, the only seating that has you seated at a table of normal height for dining.

A random side note: the bathroom smelt really great.  The attention to detail like this is what made the experience overall good, even if I didn't care for my food or drink.  Someone really did care about the space and the atmosphere.


We were mostly there for cocktails, although there is an impressive wine, whiskey, and sake selection as well.  Cocktails are broken into three categories: Roka Signatures, San Francisco Specialties and Classics, Old & New.
Roka Fashion / Boozy & Bitter.  $13
"Suntory Toki, Japanese Black Sugar, Citrus Oils, Bitters."

I opted for the "Roka Fashion", from the Roka Signatures menu.

I didn't really like it.

The flavor was complex, the citrus oils did add a slight fruitiness.  But, it was overall just too bitter for my taste, particularly on the finish, leaving me with a bitter taste that lingered.

I wouldn't get this again.
Roka Ginger Ale. $6.
"Fresh Ginger & Lemon, Simple Syrup, Soda Water."

My dining companion who wasn't drinking alcohol had two choices of drink, cucumber rose lemonade, or the Roka ginger ale.

He was really impressed with the drink, commenting several times on how good it was.  I tried a sip, and, yes, it was very good.  The ginger was quite strong, but fresh, and well balanced by the citrus.  Clearly made form fresh ginger.  More successful than my cocktail, for sure.


The dessert menu had 5 items, plus a daily ice cream or sorbet by the scoop, in addition to the signature Roka Akor dessert platter.  The dessert platter is a crazy feast that costs $18 per person, and I've seen photos of, so I knew it was far more than we needed, plus, uh, we didn't need to get a $72 dessert!

We ended up ordering 3 of the desserts, skipping the simple ice cream and sorbet, and the two other desserts that were both based around shaved ice and ice cream.  San Francisco cold summer weather just didn't inspire frozen desserts, although I was excited by the pandan ice cream that was part of one shaved ice creation, and the red bean and mochi with the other..
Baked Taro and Coconut Custard with Jackfruit Ice Cream. $12.
As soon as I saw the dessert menu, it was clear what I wanted.  This.  I didn't entirely know what it was, but I adore taro and would gladly consume it in any form.  Bonus points for "custard", as that sounds like "pudding", and I love puddings.  More bonus points for jackfruit, something I rarely (if ever?) have in the US.

When the dessert arrived, I was impressed, visually.  Served on a large earthenware piece.  Elaborate plating.  Which, makes sense, given that I know the restaurant serves well plated food.

But ... as good as it looked, and as much as it incorporated ingredients I like, it just wasn't very good.

The taro and coconut custard was a bar shape in the middle of the plate.  I couldn't taste any coconut (not in the custard, not anywhere).  It did taste of taro, but it also had a strong "fake sweet" taste, like artificial sweetener.  The texture was a bit odd, kinda just mush.  Slightly taro flavored mush.  Not a rich custard as I was expecting.  Not a highlight.

The custard was topped with thin slices of jackfruit, fruity, flavorful, and I loved these.  The crispy taro chips on top were also tasty, and I loved the crunch.

The jackfruit ice cream wasn't great though, fairly icy, not a smooth creamy texture.  It came on top of a few more pieces of jackfruit, which again stole the show.

The final element was the smear you can see here, that we weren't ever able to identify.

Overall, I just didn't like this.  At all.  Yes, the jackfruit and taro chips were tasty, but those were about two bites, and everything else was extremely disappointing.  No one else really bothered with a second bite of this one, but I kept trying.  Eventually, even I gave up, and we left this one unfinished. 
Warm Valhrona Chocolate Cake with Almond Caramel & Vanilla Ice Cream. $14.
One of my dining companions ordered the signature Roka Akor dessert, on the menu at every one of their locations, and a permanent item: the molten chocolate cake.  It came topped with custom printed Roka Akor chocolate.

I do not eat chocolate at night, so I just had a tiny bite.  It was pretty textbook molten chocolate cake.  It was warm, the cake shell wasn't too thick, and it burst with oozing warm chocolate when he cut into it.

The caramel was very tasty, thick, sweet caramel.  The almond elements were very strong, which was a bit surprising to me, and if you don't like almond, beware.

Overall, a very good molten chocolate cake, and one diner (the one who ordered it) ranked it his favorite.
Cherry Blossom Panna Cotta with Roasted Apricots & Honeycomb. $12.
Another dining companion opted for the panna cotta, which certainly would have been my pick if there wasn't a taro item on the menu, given my love of panna cotta.

Of course I tried a bite.

The seasonal accompaniments were three large segments of roasted apricot, a scoop of apricot sorbet, and pieces of honeycomb.  Under the sorbet scoop (bottom orange blob) was a buttery shortbread crumble that I really liked.

The panna cotta itself, much like the molton chocolate cake, was very textbook.  Good consistency and texture.  Nice wiggle.  It had a pleasant, sweet, delicate flavor from the cherry blossom.

Much like the molton chocolate cake, I thought this was a good solid execution of a classic dessert, with some slight twists, but not particularly exciting.  The person who ordered it did like it the most, and one other said the honey was his favorite item.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pop! Gourmet Foods

I love snacks. I love popcorn.  I love crazy flavors of popcorn.

So, I was excited to discover Pop!, as, well, they make crazy flavors of popcorn (and chips). They love to Sriracha and Tajin all the things.

Sadly, the varieties I tried were a bit more pedestrian.

White Cheddar Jalapeno Fire Corn.
"A fiery mix of popcorn and crispy jalapeno slices tossed with white cheddar cheese."

Um, wow.

"Fire Corn" is actually a fitting name for this product.

I took my first bite as a handful.  I kinda regretted it.  Seriously spicy.

I did like the spice, once I was ready for it, but, it stuck with you, and it burned.  This is a product for serious heat lovers.

The white cheddar coating helped temper it a bit, but only a bit.  The kernels were well coated in the white cheddar powder.

This was also not a light popcorn.  The bag contained only an ounce of popcorn, and it was 200 calories.  For barely more than a handful.
Cascade Mix.
"A delicious blend of tender Northwest white cheddar cheese popcorn and premium caramel corn. A mouthwatering twist on a classic."

The cheese and caramel popcorn combo is still one that I'm learning to appreciate.  Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it totally doesn't.

This one worked, but mostly because the cheddar popcorn was very, very mild.  It was white cheddar, so no scary fake orange color, no cheesy colored fingers after eating it, and subtle cheese flavor.  I liked it, but I did wish for more.

The caramel was very sweet, as expected.  It reminded me more of toffee than caramel, but, I liked it, particularly when frozen.  It got a great crunch to it.  The kernels were well coated.

Overall, a decent popcorn, but another heavy hitter, 200 calories in a very small portion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lakeview Bistro Breakfast Buffet @ Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles

I was in Los Angeles for a quick recruiting trip, and stayed at The Westin Bonaventure.  My schedule was jam packed, and, I quickly learned that downtown LA was not somewhere I'd want to walk around to find options anyway, so, I just had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, the "Lakeview Bistro".
Breakfast: Day 1.
Sadly, it was inconsistent.  It was great one day, but, alas, not the next.


Indoor Entrance.
The Lakeview Bistro is located in the center of huge Westin Bonaventure complex, in the inside atrium, with the 4 towers raising on each side.

I'm not sure where the name of this, uh, "bistro" comes from.  It isn't a bistro really.  And it certainly doesn't have a view of any lake.  Unless you count the interior water features as a "lake"
View Up.
The view might not have been a "lakeview", but I loved looking up from my seat, up into the many story atrium.  A really cool perspective.
Place Setting.
Tables were nicely set with cloth napkins, large mugs, and cute little plants.
The main focus is a buffet, set up in the back of the room, with two hot stations (American and Asian), two cold wells (fruit and continental), and a small section of pastries.  More details on this all below.


Once you are seated, a server pretty quickly approaches to offer orange juice and coffee.  Both are included if you are getting the buffet.

The first day I asked if sparkling water was an included, and was told yes.  I was brought a small bottle of Peligrino.  The second day, my server said, "from the soda machine? Or do they give you a bottle?" I told him bottle, and he seemed satisfied with that response, so, I think the policy here isn't quite well known.

If you go a la carte, flat and sparkling water are $7, Starbucks coffee is $6. Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice are $7.75, apple, tomato , or cranberry juice (presumably not fresh), are $7.00.

Tea and espresso beverages were also available, not sure if they would also be included in buffet.
Coffee is ordered from your server when you sit.  

I started with regular and it was ... awful?  Very harsh, it tasted like it had been brewed hours before and left sitting and intensifying.  I did not like this at all.  The same was true the second day.

I moved on to decaf and it was much better.  Still a darker roast than I prefer, but, it wasn't as acidic.  It was nice and hot.

I did appreciate the large mug.

Creamer was brought with the coffee, and standard choice of sweeteners were on the table.


Breakfast prices are high, particularly with a la carte.  I'll lead with that.  But this is pretty standard for a hotel.

There are two buffet options (continental or hot as well), plus a decent a la carte menu.  I only had the buffet (the extended option), but I was impressed with the quality.  The selection was average, and things *looked* average, but it was better than most hotel buffets in actual quality.

Superfood Continental Buffet $23.75.

"Browse our SuperFoods cold buffet and choose from seasonal cut and whole fresh fruits, cold cereal, low-fat and greek plain and flavored yogurts, vegetables, olives, hardboiled eggs and feta cheese. Enjoy a toast station with a large selection of breads, gluten free options, bagels, and pastries. Served with freshly brewed Starbucks Coffee and Tazo Teas, and fresh juices."
Assorted Cereals.
The cereal lineup was Kellogg's, individual boxes, with Special K, All Bran, Raisin Bran,  Frosted Flakes, Rice Crispies.

No super sugary cereals (e.g. Fruit Loops) and no granola.

I thought it was nice that they served these in boxes rather than the standard, hard to use, messy, cereal dispensers with stale cereal, but I wonder if it leads to people snagging extra boxes to stash away and not purchase breakfast the next day?

If you order any of the cereal a la carte, it is a whopping $7.50!  Yes, just for the box of cereal.  And then you could add bananas or strawberries for $4.00!
Speaking of milk, it was ripe for the plucking from the buffet as well, in individual cartons.

Vanilla soy milk, whole milk, lowfat milk, and nonfat milk.  I grabbed a vanilla soy milk to chug after the gym, so I appreciated this.

And if you wanted a la carte for this ... $6.  Ouch!
The yogurt was all Oikos, available in plain or lowfat, Greek strawberry, or Greek Honey Vanilla.

Again, ripe for the plucking as they were individuals, and sealed.

The a la carte price? $7!
Honey, Walnuts.
Honey pots and walnuts were available, perhaps as yogurt toppings, since there was no granola nor stewed fruit?
Whole Fruit.
The whole fruit lineup was ... meager.  Oranges or apples.
Cut Fruit.
The cut fruit selection was fairly sad, melons, pineapple, and strawberries.
Smoked Salmon, Red Onion, Capers, Tomatoes.
I didn't try the smoked salmon, as it didn't look particularly good, nor did the tomatoes on the side.
Olives, Cucumbers, Lemons, Hard Boiled Eggs, Feta.
I also didn't try any of this, and it seemed like a strange selection.  Without lettuce, or dressing, isn't cucumbers, olives, and feta just a very, very sad Greek salad?
Cream Cheese, Butter.
Cream cheese came in plain or strawberry, and butter and non-butter were both offered, individual packages.

Strangely, I did not see bread, english muffins, or bagels.  Which was very strange given the cream cheese.  Maybe plain cream cheese goes with smoked salmon, but what were you supposed to do with the strawberry cream cheese?

The a la carte menu did have toast (choice of white, whole wheat, sourdough or raisin) and english muffins for $6.25 and bagels with cream cheese for $9.95!
Breakfast Pastries.
You know me, the baked goods were my first stop.

The top row held pecan sticky buns, chocolate croissant-like things, and assorted danishes.   On bottom were two types of muffins and plain croissants.

These were all available for $6.25 a la carte. 
I tried ... many of them.
The pastries I tried were not fancy bakery quality, but were certainly better than most hotel buffets.
Pecan Apricot Danish.
I selected this mostly just to try a pastry.  I expected it would be lackluster, and I'd move on quickly.

And at some level, I was correct.  The pastry itself wasn't great.  It wasn't flaky, laminated, nice croissant dough.  It was kinda spongy.  So, not a quality pastry itself.

But I really liked the filling, which is usually just a touch of some generic jam.  This was apricot, really fresh and fruity, quite flavorful.  And there was tons of it.  I also liked the crunch from the pecans on top.

While the pastry wasn't great, the filling certainly was, and I gladly scooped it out and eat it by the spoonfuls.  I bet it would be great on my pancakes too!
Lemon Cheese Danish.
After the success of the filling of the apricot pecan danish, the second day I tried the custard filled one.  It seemed to be lemon cheese.  Very lemon.  I don't care for lemon.

The pastry was again lackluster.

Blueberry Crumb Muffin.
Again for completeness, I went for a muffin, opting for the crumb topped blueberry over the poppyseed, even though it looked very generic.

It ... was not very good.  It tasted like one that had come from a bag, if you know what I mean?  Kinda ... stale, gummy, and no real flavor to the base.  It had only a couple blueberries in the whole thing, and, as you can see, very meager crumb on top.
Pecan Sticky Bun.
Oh man, pecan sticky buns?!  Yes!

I grabbed one of these immediately, and they looked much better than average.

It was a decent pastry, crispy exterior, moist inside, totally coated in sticky (that seemed honey based?), and generously loaded with pecans.

Better than average buffet pastry, and I would have been happy with this as my sweet carb item of choice, but, actually, the hot foods buffet had even better options.
Chocolate Croissant Like Thing.
This was not a chocolate croissant, even if it sorta looked like one.  I don't think it was trying to be one.

The top was coated in a sticky glaze, which made my fingers a mess immediately.  Each layer was rolled with a small amount of chocolate filling.  The pastry itself was somewhat crispy on the exterior, in a nice way.  But it was more like a soft sweet bread than a flaky croissant.

Again, another item that I actually would have been totally pleased with, but, the hot foods had more to offer.
Chocolate Bear Claw.
The final day, I went for the almond sliced topped creation, expecting it to have almond paste inside.

Surprise!  It didn't.  Inside was a very mild chocolate paste.  Huh.  

This was not good.  Spongy pastry, strangely sticky, and the chocolate paste was flavorless.

Ultimate Superfood Breakfast Buffet $29.75

"The ultimate SuperFoods buffet provides all of the selections from the continental as well as a variety of hot items. Enjoy favorites such as smoked salmon, a SuperFoods hot entrée and a SuperFoods eggs dish (items rotate daily) scrambled eggs and eggs benedict, fresh hash brown potatoes, Applewood smoked bacon, pork sausage, freshly made pancakes or French toast with caramelized bananas. Additionally we feature congee, miso soup, assorted pickles and noodles. Served with freshly brewed Starbucks Coffee and Tazo Teas, and fresh juices. *Your server will assist you with your choice of toast, omelets (three items maximum), and eggs or egg whites cooked to order."
Aha!  The missing toast.  Only included in the extended buffet option, and the server was supposed to offer it?  I was offered drinks, but there was NO mention of toast or cooked to order eggs.  I didn't hear them give these options to anyone else around me, nor did I ever see toast or eggs delivered to my neighbors who were dining from the buffet.

Hot Foods - American

The hot foods selection was about what you'd expect, with a few Superfoods thrown in, since, Westin Wellness.  There were some hits here, but it really depended on how fresh you caught batches, as is standard with buffets, hot foods, and steam trays.
McCann's Irish Oatmeal.
A small oatmeal station with cinnamon and brown sugar started the buffet.

From a la carte menu they jazz it up with golden raisins as well, for $11.
Roasted Pumpkin.
Roasted pumpkin?  Hmm.  I like pumpkin!

But this I didn't like.  It was soft, nicely cooked I guess, but it had a strange flavor to it.  It reminded me of Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, which I do like, but, I just didn't want for breakfast.
Egg whites and broccolini.
Westin's healthy focus shows up here, with scrambled whites only with broccolini.

Scrambled Eggs.
And the requisite sad looking scrambled eggs.

Remember, the hot buffet also *should* have included eggs cooked to order too, so omelets, poached, etc *should* have been available to everyone.
Eggs Florentine.
When I first cruised through the buffet line, there was a single egg florentine remaining, and I quickly moved on.  But after I did my circuit taking photos, it was replenished with fresh ones.

Now, I'm not into eggs, or english muffins, and really not for buffet eggs, but I've had some really, really good buffet benedicts/florentines at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, so when a fresh batch was brought out, I had to try it.

As expected though, I didn't care for it.  Soggy english muffin on the bottom, way too bitter and chewy steamed spinach, soggy slice of tomato, decent enough poached egg, and rather congealed hollendaise that had no real flavor to it.

My server told me that this is benedict some days, and her favorite of the buffet items.  She was happy to tell me about how they make the sauce fresh every morning.  I do think the standard of quality for this buffet was unusually high, even if I didn't like this.

This was basically the poached eggs, steamed spinach, grilled tomato, on toasted english muffin on the a la carte menu, just, with hollendaise.  That one is served with roasted baby white rose potatoes for $24.95.
Applewood smoked bacon.
I like crispy bacon, so I tried this my second morning.  It was crispy indeed ... as in, I couldn't chew it.  At all.  Almost like jerky.

$7 a la carte.
Country pork sausage.
I also didn't try the sausage, also $7.00 a la carte.
Grilled Fresh Housemade Hashbrowns.
I took this photo when I first cruised through, and there was a moderate amount of hash browns left in the serving vessel.

But while I was collecting my platter, a fresh batch was brought out.  And I knew that they take pride in these hash browns.  But buffet hash browns?  I usually skip them, and most potato products, as they are usually the frozen variety, lukewarm, soggy, and lackluster.

These however, were amazing.  They were grilled, and super crispy on the outside.  Moist shredded potato inside.  Well seasoned (salt!).  

I loved these.  Like, really, really loved them, more than any potato product of any kind that I've had in recent ... years?  They showed up every diner I've visited.

They were even better when drizzled with maple syrup.  But, I think they were my second favorite item.  Although that is a toss-up, really.

The second day, the batch was old and soggy.  Watery even, as condensation collected in the steam tray.  But no fear, I kept an eye out, hung around, and waited to snag a fresh batch.  They were again great, nicely crispy, and delicious slathered with syrup and salt.

You can get these from the a la carte menu for $7.00, and, you totally should.
Buttermilk Pancakes: Day 1.
The other amazing item?  The pancakes.  Yes, the buffet pancakes.

Again, I benefited from the fact that the pancakes were empty on my first circuit, but were replenished while I was there.  Fresh pancakes.

They didn't look like much, but, as the only hot carb item (besides potato I guess, but no french toast, bread pudding, etc), I decided to try them.

They were a thin style, not super fluffy or anything, but ... the flavor was great.  Buttermilk.  Great tang.  I think I'm just a sucker for buttermilk pancakes?  They reminded me of more reasonable sized IHOP pancakes (and you know how much I love those!)

I clearly lucked out with getting fresh ones though.  When I told my server how much I liked them, she was surprised, and told me she never hears that.  And, that her own experience is that the edges are usually dried out.  Mine were not dry in any way.

I really enjoyed these, and the hash browns, both when drizzled with syrup.

From the regular menu you could order blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote, Vermont pure maple syrup, lightly dusted with powdered sugar for $20.75 or Belgian waffles with berries and whipped cream for $20.75, no french toast was in sight actually.
Buttermilk Pancakes: Day 2.
Pretty sure this is going to be predictable, but, uh, on day 2 the pancakes were ... not good.

Dry.  Soggy.  Lukewarm.  Overcooked.  Broken to pieces.

I even waited for a fresh batch, and those too were just soggy and lacked buttermilk tang.  Disappointing.
Mixed Berries Syrup, Maple Syrup.
I coated my first pancake half in mixed berry syrup, half in maple syrup, since there were no little bowls on the side to keep it separate.

I did not like the berry syrup.  Not sure why, but just not an enjoyable flavor.

The maple syrup though was great.  I'm not certain it was real syrup (it was on the a la carte offering), as it tasted a bit too buttery, but, uh, even though I was raised on real syrup (produced by family members), I have a soft spot for pancake syrup.  And sometimes prefer it.  Don't tell my family, I think they will disown me, really.

The syrup certainly helped make the pancakes and hash browns into the glorious things they were.

Hot Foods - Asian

The other side of the hot foods bar is "Asian".  I wonder if they get a lot of Asian guests?  My visit was a week after returning from Tokyo where I was obsessed with the pickles, so I was excited to see this lineup.  Sadly, I didn't care for any of it.
Congee, Miso Soup.
 Both congee and miso soup were available to form the base of your creation.
This was the first place I stopped, given my love of these stations in the Tokyo hotels.

Sadly, none of this was very good.

The lineup had pickled cucumber, plum, and daikon radish, kim chee, and pork fu (aka, pork floss!).  They all looked fine, but didn't really taste fresh or quality.
Soft Noodles, Sauces.
You could also add soft noodles, chili sauce, and soy sauce to your creations.
"Soft Noodles".
The second day, I opened the lid of the "soft noodles" and was surprised.  I thought these were just noodles to add to your soup!  But nope, they were stir fried with assorted veggies.

I eagerly tried some, loaded them up with toppings, but, they were still somehow flavorless and soggy.  Oh well.